Let's Ask The Harder Question: Can Art Be Games?

I thought we put the stupid "can games be art" thing to rest when games critic John Brindle revealed that games can never be art so long as games fail to embrace flaccid penises. Real Art, unlike video games, is defined by flaccid penises. But now that the issue has reared it's ugly head again, it was time for game developer Sophie Houlden to take a stand and force us to look at the real question that people should be asking: can art be games?

The result is a freaking hilarious satirical blog post that makes fun of the way critics claim games can't be art — by turning things around and saying that art doesn't seem like such a big deal in comparison to games. She writes it as if she lived in a bizarro world where art had to prove itself to games.

The Musée de Louvre is a place in Paris. Every year over 8 million people visit the place, often to view art. Now, that's not as many people as are currently subscribing to World of Warcraft or anything, but it's still a lot. And people are beginning to wonder if art is beginning to have a similar cultural importance that games enjoy.

So, do pictures like Whistler's Mother or that one with the dreary-farmer-couple have a place alongside classics like Final Fantasy 7 or thatgamecompany's latest masterpiece ‘Journey'?

Like any reasonable person would do, Sophie tries to get some first-hand knowledge about art so that she can make better judgements about it. She decides to buy a print, but then things turn silly as she finds out that art doesn't work in the same way games do.

Now reader, if you want to see your friend at their most frustrated, all you have to do is ask them to help you use art. "You just have to hang it on the wall, that's all!" Emily tried to explain, but this was totally outside my range of experience. "But how do I interact with it?" I asked, "You don't interact, you just look at it!"

Now I do like my friend Emily, but how was I supposed to know that? What came naturally to Emily was a chore for me, the art didn't even come with any instructions or tutorial. It seems art is easy for people like Emily who grew up with it, but I fear regular folk like you and me will forever be out of touch.

Having situated the art on a wall in the living room, I asked Emily if there was a special way to look at it to make the art work. "No, you just look at it." she explained, clearly as frustrated with the experience as I, "Like a TV?" I asked. The look on Emily's face then became that look you get when you're at risk of losing a friend, so I quickly said "Oh never-mind, I think I've got it figured out." and stared at the lifeless picture, pretending it gave me a similar sense of emotion I got from actually exploring the beautiful landscapes that developers craft for their games.

The clincher comes at the end, when she talks about the things games do that make it impossible for art to aspire to be as good at games, so art is inferior.

Mostly, though, this post highlights many of the missteps that art critics make in judging the artistic value of games. And Sophie does this without treading into tired ground about what art is and all that jazz. It's just incisive humour that makes you think. Thank god that; I can't be the only one that is tired of reading so many similar arguments about art and games.

Really, you should this in its entirety.

Can Art Be Games? [Sophie's Blog]


    Link goes to Far Cry 3 Article.


    At can be a game! :) I want more!!!

    There are lots of artistic and quite tastefully done pictures that I interact with...

    I think that's the easier question. There have been many interactive art pieces that could be seen as games, if you're coming from that perspective a lot of things that aren't created explicitly to be games.

    I think the difference is games are meant to be entertainment, that is their main purpose, and why they are created, so they conform to certain restrictions (scores, levels, controls etc) whereas something that is created as a piece of art with interactive elements similar to games, is focused more on creating an experience - exploring an idea in a way that goes beyond just descriptive words or a diagram. It's not about explaining something, it's about making you experience it instead.

    There are many games have already been developed and more that are being developed that are eschewing the traditional constraints of traditional games, to create a different,multifaceted and more interesting experience, moving away from levels full of bad guys to shoot or coins to collect to explore ideas in an interactive and less linear way.

    Bugger the art elitists. Bugger them with flaccid penises.

    I'll settle this debate once and for all - games are NOT art. Games are MORE than art. They contain art, sure, but they are also composed of storytelling, music, mathematics & technology and even (albeit somewhat shamefully) business marketing.

    I don't see how it's a complicated issue. Galleries and museums should be proud to display games amongst their exhibits, because games are the amalgamation of just about every human creative pursuit (and I use the term 'creative' liberally when referring to business marketing).

    Anybody who protests otherwise is operating in a very narrow-minded perspective, likely disregarding games without even a second glance. I think this is the same syndrome as game censorship vs. movie censorship, where games are being dismissed purely as a bias against the new medium.

    Last edited 08/12/12 4:36 pm

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